The importance of culture

Much of the reason behind this blog is to help remind fellow Catholics of the rich cultural heritage we have (often at the same time as I learn about it and gain more and more appreciation for it). But why is this cultural heritage important? What does culture have to do with faith?

Let’s consider Ireland and Poland for a minute. Of European countries, these are by far the highest in percentage of practicing Catholics. Why do you think that is? At the same time, the picture doesn’t look particularly good. They are going the way of the west.

The people of Ireland were under the yoke of England ever since the only English Pope authorised the invasion of Ireland by the Normans. More importantly for this discussion, the Irish suffered even fiercer oppression after the Protestant reformation, with the refusal to submit to heresy. Being Irish in many ways became synonymous with being Catholic. A culture of Catholicism (and Gaelic football) rose up. Now I know I’m oversimplifying things here, but such is the nature of a blog.

Let’s just think about Polish history this past century; I don’t want to get into the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom. Facing the threat first from Nazis, and then from the communists, the main way to hold on to Polish identity was to cling to the Catholic faith. And just like Barack Obama, I mean cling in a very good way. In order to survive in a world brutally opposed to your faith, you must express it inside and out. It must envelop your whole life. Pope John Paul II knew this in his early attachment to resistance theatre. Polish poetry and theatre were predominantly Catholic, and in this way, their faith and their way of life flowered in the spiritual desert of 20th Century Poland.

The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual “culture”, which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.

Pope Benedict XVI

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